ORGANISERS of Witney Music Festival were thrilled with this year’s main event despite ongoing difficulties with the town council.

Chairman of the festival Eric Marshall was delighted to see thousands of people enjoying live music, including headliners The Undertones on The Leys on Saturday after doubt was cast on the event’s success over the past few weeks.

But Mr Marshall has renewed calls for Witney Town Council to step back from the hands-on role it took with the event this year.

He said: “The lead up to this year’s event has been dramatic to say the least.

"We’ve been completely distracted by the battles with the town council so we felt a little underprepared, as though we hadn’t advertised it enough – so there was a lot of uncertainty in terms of what we would be greeted with on Saturday.

“But we were met with the most wonderful event.

"Thousands upon thousands of people came out to celebrate Witney and the music we have in Witney.

“It was quite emotional because, fundamentally, that’s what it’s all about.”

The event on The Leys became the centre of a feud between organisers and the town council, which owns The Leys, after the council introduced some changes to timings.

Last Thursday, when the team were moving onto the field to set up, they were not initially allowed onto The Leys due to apparent issues over paperwork.

Mr Marshall said the documents in question, relating to a fireworks risk assessment and first aid cover, had been considered fine by licensing at West Oxfordshire District Council and the Safety Advisory Group, which is made up of members of the emergency services.

He said: “They [the town council] need to stick to just being a landlord and allow the professional bodies in place to govern it and manage it the chance to do it, because they’re the best people to do that.”

The town council is due to discuss its role as landlord following a proposal raised at a recent meeting by Mr Marshall.

Controversy first developed after the town council issued a statement last month confirming changes had made to timings of the festival's main event on The Leys.

Though the event’s after party was scheduled to conclude at 2am on Sunday morning, the council said the funfair had to finish at 10pm, live music on the stage conclude 11pm and the whole site to be vacated by 12.30am.

The council said it was initially unaware organisers had planned to hold the after party until 2am.

Last year the funfair ran until 11pm and the after party until 1am.

The council said the changes, which were implemented despite Mr Marshall's objections, were made as a result of concerns raised by residents.

It claimed there were worries about noise as well as the condition of the surface of the The Leys.

Councillor David Harvey said: “The town council has a responsibility to the residents and shopkeepers and businesses of all of Witney.

"As a public body, the council has a requirement to make sure that events are safe and that any complaints that may arise are considered and that suitable precautions are taken to ensure that this is the case.

“I think there’s a false perception that the town council is against the Witney Music Festival.

"This is absolutely not the case. The town council has supported it all the way along – it’s just a question of balance.”